The Mamas Den, National Mental Health Month, Black Maternal Health Week, Health and Wellness, Motherhood, Melanie Fiona, Felicia La Tour, Ashley Chea, Black Love, Inc., Codie Elaine Oliver

The Mama’s Den: Empowering Voices And Advocacy During National Minority Health Month

Hosts of The Mama’s Den podcast have honest conversations about motherhood, health, race, and sexuality from a mama's perspective.

April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM). This annual observance raises awareness about the health disparities between racial and ethnic minorities and encourages people to take action to end these inequities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in four Americans, or 77 million people, have multiple chronic conditions. Spending on patients with various chronic conditions across the United States consumes 71% of all healthcare dollars throughout all settings.

Despite the improvements in the overall health of the country, racial and ethnic minorities experience a lower quality of healthcare—they are less likely to receive routine medical care and face higher rates of morbidity and mortality than nonminorities.

Singer Melanie Fiona; entrepreneur and influencer Felicia La Tour; writer Ashley Chea; and CEO of Black Love, Inc., Codie Elaine Oliver, created The Mama’s Den to have honest conversations about motherhood, health, race, sexuality, religion, and dating. In an unfiltered community filled with authentic conversations and experiences, the hosts share insights and information all from a mama’s perspective.

In a recent conversation with BLACK ENTERPRISE, Fiona, La Tour, Chea, and Oliver shed light on various aspects of Black maternal health, from disparities in medical care to the importance of mental health support.

Raising Awareness

For Fiona, NMHM signifies an opportunity for collective action and awareness. She emphasizes the importance of utilizing platforms like social media to educate and engage communities, stating, “It’s a time for people to get educated, understand and hear what we’re saying, and listen to what we’re asking for.”

Black individuals are more likely to experience barriers to timely medical care that are not directly related to the cost of care, such as long waiting times at the physician’s office, inconvenient office hours, and lack of transportation.

La Tour echoes Fiona’s sentiment, highlighting the essential role of advocacy in addressing disparities within the medical field. Drawing from her personal experiences and those of her friends, she emphasizes the urgency of raising awareness of issues such as barriers to care, preventable miscarriages, and medical malpractice, stating, “It’s just essential. I have close friends who have experienced multiple late-term miscarriages that may have been prevented. It brings awareness to a lot of the disparities that are happening in the healthcare for Black women especially.”

Empowerment Through Education

Chea emphasizes the importance of empowerment and education in Black maternal health. She views NMHM as an opportunity to create spaces where individuals feel empowered to make informed choices about their reproductive health. Chea states, “I look at it in the hope of creating spaces and content where we feel like we have options; we feel like there’s no one way to do this thing, and can all share resources, including promoting health equity, addressing underlying social disadvantages, and shedding light on healthcare algorithmic and Artificial Intelligence Bias.”

Healthcare algorithms and AI may exacerbate disparities in healthcare outcomes among various demographic groups, such as those defined by race, ethnicity, gender, or age.

One factor contributing to bias in healthcare algorithms and AI is the absence of diversity in the datasets used for training. To mitigate this, it’s crucial to incorporate data from a wide range of patients representing diverse demographic backgrounds during the development of AI systems, ensuring equitable performance across all groups.

Oliver further emphasizes the role of education in inspiring change and healing within communities. She stresses the significance of sharing diverse birthing experiences to empower women and families, stating, “It represents a collective time and space to bring healing and awareness. Historically speaking, there has been mistrust and underutilization of services by people of color, and racism’s impact on delivering healthcare and mental health services. NMHM is inspiring change through collective action and community.”

Challenges And Advocacy In Medical Care

Black women face many challenges within the healthcare system, particularly regarding obstetric care. Fiona recounts her traumatic experience with an emergency C-section and subsequent struggles to advocate for herself during her second pregnancy. She highlights systemic biases and the need for personalized care, stating, “Some women go into these meetings, offices, and appointments where they are just treated like a statistic.” 

In 2007, a method known as the VBAC algorithm was introduced to aid healthcare professionals in evaluating the potential for a safe vaginal birth after cesarean. This algorithm considers various factors, including the woman’s age, the indication for the previous C-section, and the time elapsed since the procedure. However, one study in 2017 revealed discrepancies in the accuracy of the original algorithm.

Fiona shares, “The algorithm predicted that Black/African American women were less likely to have a successful vaginal birth after a C-section than non-Hispanic white women. I opted to have a VBAC for my second pregnancy, and right from the start, I was met with resistance.”

When people go to a medical facility for help, they expect the doctor to make appropriate health decisions for optimal health and outcomes.

Chea reflects on her journey through medical neglect and misdiagnosis, emphasizing the crucial need to have one’s voice heard to champion adequate care. Recalling her struggles with postpartum depression and undiagnosed thyroid disease, she asserts, “I had to advocate for myself to secure the proper care persistently.”

After a three-year battle, which resulted in abnormal weight gain, diabetes, and hospitalization, Chea was finally provided the correct diagnosis to get back on a healthier track. “It just sucks because the doctors kept telling me that it was something else.”

Role of Allies And Community Support

It is paramount to have allies and community support in addressing the maternal health crisis by bringing community members together and working with trusted organizations to identify concerns. Oliver emphasizes the need for collective action and support from partners, healthcare professionals, and allies. She stresses the significance of listening to Black women and amplifying their voices in advocating for equitable healthcare.

“It is necessary for all of us–family, community, and health organizations–to be aware, and be thoughtful,” Oliver points out. “Public health and community-based entities have the opportunity to enhance the well-being of their communities through initiatives aimed at tackling social determinants of health.”

The Mama’s Den provides a platform for authentic conversations and experiences surrounding Minority Health and Black maternal health. By sharing personal stories, advocating for change, and fostering community support, Fiona, La Tour, Chea, and Oliver exemplify resilience and empowerment in navigating the complexities of health and motherhood.

The change I want to create, even on a bigger scale in our community through my nonprofit, is getting bills passed and changing laws,” emphasizes La Tour. “Get behind what I’m doing, what Elaine, Melanie, and Ashley are doing, or what someone you know is doing. Get in line and support, whether that is physical or monetary support.” 

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